Discourse and logical form: pronouns, attention and coherence

Linguistics and Philosophy 40 (5):519-547 (2017)
  Copy   BIBTEX

Abstract

Traditionally, pronouns are treated as ambiguous between bound and demonstrative uses. Bound uses are non-referential and function as bound variables, and demonstrative uses are referential and take as a semantic value their referent, an object picked out jointly by linguistic meaning and a further cue—an accompanying demonstration, an appropriate and adequately transparent speaker’s intention, or both. In this paper, we challenge tradition and argue that both demonstrative and bound pronouns are dependent on, and co-vary with, antecedent expressions. Moreover, the semantic value of a pronoun is never determined, even partly, by extra-linguistic cues; it is fixed, invariably and unambiguously, by features of its context of use governed entirely by linguistic rules. We exploit the mechanisms of Centering and Coherence theories to develop a precise and general meta-semantics for pronouns, according to which the semantic value of a pronoun is determined by what is at the center of attention in a coherent discourse. Since the notions of attention and coherence are, we argue, governed by linguistic rules, we can give a uniform analysis of pronoun resolution that covers bound, demonstrative, and even discourse bound readings. Just as the semantic value of the first-person pronoun ‘I’ is conventionally set by a particular feature of its context of use—namely, the speaker—so too, we will argue, the semantic values of other pronouns, including ‘he’, are conventionally set by particular features of the context of use.

Similar books and articles

Pronouns: anaphora and demonstration.R. M. Sainsbury - 2005 - In R. M. Sainsbury (ed.), Reference Without Referents. Oxford, England and New York, NY, USA: Oxford University Press UK.
From Coherence Relations to the Grammar of Pronouns and Tense.Magdalena Kaufmann - 2023 - Croatian Journal of Philosophy 23 (69):275-294.
Dependent plural pronouns with Skolemized choice functions.Yasutada Sudo - 2014 - Natural Language Semantics 22 (3):265-297.
E-Type Pronouns And E-Terms.B. H. Slater - 1986 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 16 (March):27-38.
E-Type Pronouns and varepsilon -Terms.B. H. Slater - 1986 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 16 (1):27-38.
E-type Pronouns and ε-tems.B. H. Slater - 1986 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 16 (1):27-38.
Not every pronoun is always a pronoun.E. G. Ruys - 2023 - Linguistics and Philosophy 46 (5):1027-1050.

Analytics

Added to PP
2017-05-05

Downloads
668 (#2,125)

6 months
185 (#107,222)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author Profiles

Ernie LePore
Rutgers - New Brunswick
Una Stojnic
Princeton University

Citations of this work

Semantics without semantic content.Daniel W. Harris - 2020 - Mind and Language 37 (3):304-328.
No context, no content, no problem.Ethan Nowak - 2020 - Mind and Language 36 (2):189-220.
We talk to people, not contexts.Daniel W. Harris - 2020 - Philosophical Studies 177 (9):2713-2733.
Content in a Dynamic Context.Una Stojnić - 2017 - Noûs 53 (2):394-432.
Deceiving without answering.Peter van Elswyk - 2019 - Philosophical Studies 177 (5):1157-1173.

View all 16 citations / Add more citations

References found in this work

Demonstratives: An Essay on the Semantics, Logic, Metaphysics and Epistemology of Demonstratives and other Indexicals.David Kaplan - 1989 - In Joseph Almog, John Perry & Howard Wettstein (eds.), Themes From Kaplan. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 481-563.
On referring.Peter F. Strawson - 1950 - Mind 59 (235):320-344.
Convention: A Philosophical Study.David Lewis - 1969 - Synthese 26 (1):153-157.

View all 38 references / Add more references